Picture the clear aquamarine waters of Saint Lucia, miles of coastline dotted with sugar-soft beaches, and majestic palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze. For some, this idyllic setting would be a holiday escape; for Evelyn Jenkins Drew, an accomplished watercolour artist from Aptos, California, it is her working studio.
Evelyn is a fifth-generation artist, a great-granddaughter of renowned Mexican artist Fortunato Arriola who migrated to San Francisco in 1857. Arriola settled near the area of California that Evelyn calls home for eight months of the year. The remaining four months are spent in the Caribbean aboard a 44-foot sloop aptly named Aquarelle (French for watercolour).
Evelyn usually begins painting about mid-morning, when the light is suffuse and lustrous. She works mainly from her own photographs, with each subject photographed at different angles over several hours. Her resource photos are typically taken between 9am and 3pm when the sun is high and shadows are minimized, although she avoids shooting in the direct glare of the noonday sun.
Luscious Saint Lucia Colour:
Using a makeshift palette of recyclable egg-cartons, Evelyn mixes small amounts of very specific colours so she can work in small areas at a time. She usually begins with light-hued and yellow foliage and then gradually builds up layers of colour to mid-greens and darker shades, ending with a finished product of one or another shade whose names evoke ‘exotic’.
Under Evelyn’s deft hand and gifted eye, colour takes on huge significance. For her, the sky is not just blue; depending on the time of day or the angle of light, it might be ultramarine, cerulean, cornflower or phthalo blue with specks of liseran purple. The sea is not just turquoise, but will materialize as anything from cyan to indigo depending on the sea depth and the weather conditions. Foliage can appear green, but closer inspection reveals it to be a subtle mixture of hues.
Foliage, Forms and Fatigued Furniture:
Birds, animals and occasionally even people find their way into Evelyn’s paintings. She is also fascinated by architectural forms she finds on the island: old stone foundations and structures as well as weather-worn furniture like the pieces on the veranda at Jambe de Bois. But her favourite motif is foliage: husky hibiscus leaves, feathery ferns and barbed blades of palm. She loves the subtle chromatic and textural variations that result when foliage is illuminated by sunlight – reflected, transmitted or direct. Some of her leaves are so delicately rendered that they appear translucent.
Evelyn’s paintings are lush, vibrant depictions of life in the islands. They reflect her love of Saint Lucia and her joy in its atmospheric and emotional warmth and sunniness. Her work has been widely exhibited and is in private collections in many parts of the world. Her prints and art cards are for sale at Jambe de Bois, Pigeon Island and other locations in the Caribbean and the US.
To view Evelyn’s work online,